Strengthening the Rule of Law in Liberia: Justice and Security for the Liberian People – Phase II


The rule of law is central to the United Nations’ approach to promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies in line with SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Access to legal services is critical in rebuilding societies, and creating an enabling environment for poverty reduction, gender equality, sustainable growth and development. It also guarantees the respect for, and protection of human rights. While critical gains have been made in institutionalizing the rule of law, several challenges still remain. As Liberia strives to implement the Propoor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PPAD) 2020-2024, corruption, impunity and weak accountability undermine the envisioned agenda. Liberia ranks 137th out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (2020). Justice and human rights systems remain weak, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), predominantly targeted at women, is widespread due to a weak presence of formal justice mechanisms in remote areas of the country.

The judiciary has human resource, financial and infrastructural constraints resulting in a backlog of cases that undermines access to justice. Eighty percent (80%) of Liberians rely on traditional leaders, guided by customary practices that are inherently gender discriminatory, to resolve disputes. A public perception survey of security and justice institutions showed that the public has higher trust and confidence in the informal justice system (69%) as compared to the formal justice system (31%). The Joint UN Rule of Law, Justice and Security Programme for Liberia, now in phase two, continues to support the government to rebuild and strengthen its institutions and systems to guarantee access to justice and security for all.

What have we accomplished so far?

• Trained and deployed 60 magistrates, 6 prosecutors, 2 case liaison officers, and 2 victim support officers to remote areas.

• Steady year-on-year increase in disposal of cases in magisterial courts from 58.3% in 2017 to 59.3% in 2018, 62.6% in 2019, and 65.9% in 2020.

• Public defenders increased in number to 41 resulting in disposal of 98.5% (2001 out of 2031) of the case files in 2019/2020, compared with 32% in 2017/2018, and 28% in 2016/2017.

• Established specialized sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) courts in Bong and Nimba.

• Established joint Civilian Complaint Review Board for the Liberian police, prisons and immigration services to deal with misconduct among officers.

Developed online case management system to improve efficiency and reduce judicial case backlog.

• Developed a standard training manual for traditional leaders to enhance knowledge on human rights and gender equality.

• 100 traditional leaders trained to promote respect for human rights, particularly the rights of women, girls and children.

• Established probation and/or parole services. • Rehabilitation of prison inmates through vocational training.

• Law reforms through the development of key anti-corruption legislations, prisons Act and legal aid Act.

• Develop studies on alternatives to imprisonment.

• Online Crime Statistics Information Management System for the Liberia National Police created.

• Legal aid and psychosocial services provided to 159 survivors of SGBV (all females) and 400 pre-trial detainees released.

• Capacity of 32 female-led CSOs strengthened to deliver quality services effectively to vulnerable groups through assessment, training and development of a training manual.

Next Steps

Expand mobile courts under the Magisterial Sitting Program to reduce prisons overcrowding.

• Construct a Magisterial Court in Yarkpa Town, Rivercess County.

• Develop gender policies for rule of law and security institutions.

• Strengthen the capacity of the Independent National Human Rights Commission